Retired cop escaped jail time for child porn and abduction

Haley in 2011.
Haley in 2011.
Posted: October 30, 2013

THE 8-YEAR-OLD sat near a sand bucket in her therapist's office Sept. 24 and was asked to act out her biggest fears for the next day, when she would go to court and face the man who tried to take her and threatened to kill her.

The girl took a toy lamb and put it on one side of the bucket: That was her. She took a dinosaur and put it on the other side, between two animal guards: That was him.

After a short time, the dinosaur knocked the guards down, ran up to the lamb, grabbed her, dug a hole in the sand and buried her alive. Then he ran away.

"I'm just sitting there watching all of this and the tears are building," recalled the girl's mother, Donna Harte. "I can't even imagine what is going through this child's head."

Not 10 minutes later, Harte took a call from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Her daughter would not have to testify the next day, she was told, because prosecutors had brokered a plea deal that would give the man who tried to abduct her daughter - retired Philadelphia police inspector Leo Haley - five years' probation.

"Just imagine watching your daughter do this and then having someone tell you this guy is getting off," said Harte, 44. "I broke out in hives."

Haley already was serving seven years' probation in Delaware County for pleading guilty in 2011 to possessing and disseminating hundreds of images of child pornography. He was still on parole when he was picked up by Philly police in October 2012 for allegedly trying to lure Harte's daughter from the front yard of their Roxborough home into his car.

So far, the retired Army major has evaded jail, despite admitting in court to viewing child porn and to threatening a child. Tomorrow, Haley, 73, returns to Delaware County to face sentencing for violating parole.

'Like a chameleon'

One source who knew Haley well says that he believes he's invincible.

"My big fear is he absolutely fits the profile for a sociopath," said the source, whose identity the Daily News has agreed to protect. "He's charismatic and, like a chameleon, can change to any situation. He's the least likely person you think would do anything."

Haley grew up in Philadelphia and joined the Army, but never saw action, the source said. Later he married, had four children and joined the Philadelphia Police Department, but stayed with the Army in reserve status, eventually retiring with the rank of major.

Meanwhile, he rose in the Police Department to inspector before retiring in 1996 after 26 years.

In an emailed statement, Philadelphia Police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said there was no indication that Haley did anything inappropriate while with the department.

While a cop, Haley obtained a master's degree in religion from Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and a master's degree in business from Temple University.

He joined the congregation of Bethany Lutheran Church in Roxborough, where he served on the church council, said the pastor, the Rev. Robert Hopkins.

"I would say that he was smart," Hopkins said of Haley. "He had a funny personality, in a positive way."

In 2010, the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested Haley on more than 100 counts of possessing and disseminating child pornography. His arrest stunned those who knew him.

"It was an absolute shock to everyone," said the source. "He denied it at first, and everyone in the beginning backed him, but once the facts started coming out we realized it was true."

Haley's wife left him, but his church did not. Hopkins said the congregants were in shock but they "support the sinner, not the sin," and allowed him to remain.

When his day in court arrived on March 31, 2011, Haley pleaded guilty to disseminating child porn and five counts of possessing child porn in exchange for a six- to 23-month prison sentence, seven years' probation and lifetime registry as a sexual predator under Megan's Law.

But Haley experienced no prison time. Instead, he spent six months under house arrest.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said the sentence was in the standard range for a first-time offender, and files show that Haley received house arrest because of medical issues.

A 2-mile drive

While still on parole, Haley drove about 2 miles from his home to Harte's Roxborough neighborhood on Oct. 17, 2012.

Harte's daughter had a half-day at school and Harte was watching her and baby-sitting two other girls. Her daughter and one of the girls were outside digging for worms. Harte's daughter left the other girl in the back yard while she ran to the front yard to grab a container for the worms.

Harte said her daughter told her that Haley pulled in front of their house, got out of his car and grabbed her by her throat and her dress.

"She said he lifted her up and looked her right in the eye and said, 'If you go in the house and say anything, I'll be back to kill you,' " Harte recalled. "She said she froze and it almost felt like she was having an asthma attack."

Something scared Haley off and he dropped her and ran away. Harte's daughter ran to the back yard, locked the gate and told the other little girl not to go out front.

Harte said her daughter kept quiet until they got in the car and left the house about three hours later, when her daughter told her what had happened.

"I asked her why she didn't come in the house and tell me, and she said, 'I was afraid he was going to kill me and I was afraid he was going to kill you. I wanted to wait until we were far away,' " Harte said.

Her daughter told her that the man had white hair and a beard that was close to his face. She said the man had a droopy eye and a deep voice and wore an orange jumpsuit.

Once the two picked up Harte's longtime boyfriend, the father of her daughter, they went to his sister's house, pulled up the Megan's Law website and entered their ZIP code.

"Sure enough, she picked him out," said Harte.

They went to their local police district and were taken to the Special Victims Unit.

Harte said her daughter had nightmares for three weeks.

"She was waking up in the middle of the night screaming, 'Mom, dad, he's back!' " Harte said.

Haley was arrested Nov. 8 and charged with unlawful restraint, luring a child into a motor vehicle, terroristic threats and harassment.

Harte said she was not consulted about the plea deal that prosecutors offered Haley.

The assistant district attorney on the case told Harte that prosecution would be difficult because police didn't find the vehicle her daughter described, because her daughter said the man was wearing an orange jumpsuit and because she showed her daughter the Megan's Law site before going to police.

Tasha Jamerson, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, said Haley's guilty plea to the terroristic-threats charge was an admission that he'd broken his parole in the Delaware County case and would face new sentencing there.

"We wanted to make sure that this defendant was held responsible for the trauma this young girl experienced, and the best way to do that given the evidence we had was to allow the defendant to plead guilty to terroristic threats," Jamerson wrote in an email to the Daily News.

Haley has been in prison since his sentencing Sept. 25 in Philadelphia, awaiting the Delaware County parole-violation hearing slated for tomorrow.

Whelan, the Delaware County D.A., said prosecutors would seek the maximum of 3 1/2 to seven years in state prison.

"Now the writing is on the wall," Whelan said. "Once he's proven that he acts out, we have the concern that he could do that again."

But Hopkins, the Roxborough pastor, said he thinks Haley isn't dangerous and should be given house arrest again.

"I always come down on the side of mercy," he said. "I don't see what the county gains with keeping him in prison."

Harte, whose daughter is still in therapy and is afraid to sleep or go outside alone, had no idea that Haley faced sentencing this week until she was informed by the Daily News.

"I hope he dies in prison," she said. "To me, he should not be out on the streets again."


On Twitter: @FarFarrAway

Online: ph.ly/crime

Blog: ph.ly/Delco

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